It is coming to that time of year again when powder hounds take their boards and skis out of the attic for a wax and tune and minds get concentrated on which mountains offer the best alpine experiences. A skiing or snowboarding holiday is rarely cheap and can typically cost nearly twice the price of a beach resort getaway so with this in mind we decided to take a look at some snow holidays that won’t break the bank.
Now in its twelfth year Boarderweek offers an exciting combination of the world’s largest ski area coupled with a week long concert and party. The event is held in Val Thorens in the interconnected Three Valleys Ski Area which gives access to over 600kms of piste and endless off-piste and tree runs. Val Thorens is one of the highest resorts in Europe and has a base camp of 2300m and peaks at 3230m, making it one of the first French resorts to open every season. Boarderweek involves over 10,000 skiers and boarders coming to shred the mountain by day and party hard by night; top DJ’s are flown into the Alps and the week finishes off with a large concert on the snow. Night-skiing, equipment tests and moto-cross are all part of the Boarderweek line-up this year and it takes place from December 13 to 20. Because it is at the start of the season Boarderweek offers excellent value for money; a week sharing a self-catering apartment with entry to all concerts and a 6-day ski pass costs from €229. Flights and transfers are extra. www.boarderweek.com
With the advent of budget flights eastern Europe has opened up to snowsports enthusiasts. This resort in the Tatra Mountains near the Polish border offers over 40kms of piste and two huge freeride zones at the top of the hill. The resort is served by the nearby town of Liptovsky Mikulas which has train links to Slovakia’s capital Bratislava. Jasna is the ultimate budget skiing destination- a small but well-known company called Propaganda Snowboards has been offering snow holidays for a number of years now. Packages are from €390 and include transfers to the mountain every day, transfers from Poprad airport as well as bed, breakfast and a 6-day lift pass. Jasna offers excellent après-ski- the €1 pints make sure of it and other activities such as go-karting and a hot thermal spa can be had for less than a fiver. Beginners lessons are also a bargain as is eating on the mountain. www.propagandasnowboards.com
This snow festival is now in its tenth year and is still going strong. Held at the end of the season in Mayrhofen, Austria, Snowbombing offers an eclectic mix of sunny spring skiing and dozens of concerts and gigs to liven up the already furious après-ski. Mayrhofen is one of Austria’s premier resorts and boasts large tree-fringed runs suitable for both beginners and intermediates. Snowbombing has seen some excellent acts over the last decade- Madness and Lightspeed Champion were the highlights last year and this year they hope to go one better with none other than the King of Brighton Beach, Fat Boy Slim, headlining the closing night. The festival takes place next year from March 29 until April 4. It is hard to place Snowbombing in the budget category as the basic €340 package will only get you a bed and entrance to all concerts. Lift passes cost an extra €180 and flights and transfers will add to that again. However Snowbombing offers an excellent chance to fit in a few days at the end of the season whilst enjoying some superb entertainment. www.snowbombing.com
Part of the Espace Killy ski area, Tignes has been mesmerizing both boarders and skiers for a long time now.
Interconnected with its more expensive cousin Val d’Isere, Tignes offers over 300kms of runs, some of which are perched high on a glacier. Normally skiing in the French Alps can cost an arm and a leg but there are bargains to be had. Chalet Charadons in the satellite town of Tignes le Brevieres offers accommodation for those on a budget for €40 per night which includes breakfast and a three course evening meal with wine. The chalet is a 2-minute walk to the nearest lift and gives access to the whole of the Espace Killy ski area. Après-ski is most prevalent in the nearby village of Tignes Le Lac which keeps pumping well into the small hours. www.chaletchardons.com
Freshers Ski Weeks
This is a new initative that is designed to get snow virgins on the powder. Snow holidays can be expensive but even more so if you have to buy lessons and rent equipment. With the Freshers Ski weeks you just book your holiday as normal with one of their seven approved travel agents and total beginners get their lift pass, equipment hire and lessons for free. This offer is quite a bargain for beginners as it allows you to try the sport for a week without a huge financial commitment. Freshers weeks are available in over fifty resorts in France, Austria, Norway, Switzerland and even Canada. They depart on Janurary 17 or 24. www.freshersskiweek.com
The Trinity Snowsports Society is running a trip to Val Thorens in the Three Valleys on March 21. The price for one week is €629 which includes a lift pass, flights, transfers, bed, breakfast and evening meals. Places are limited to fifty and are sure to fill up fast, just like the pre-Christmas trip they are taking to Les Arcs in France. More details of this trip and how to book it will be on their website in the New Year. www.dusnow sports.com
With easy access from the capital Sofia Borovets is another good choice for the beginner. Lift passes start from €110 for a week and lessons are also good value for money. Although Bulgaria is not quite as well known as Austria or France for its raucous après-ski it still has plenty of bars and cafes to hang out in after a long day on the slopes. There is a good mix of runs for both beginners and intermediates and the ski school puts on a night time display of precision skiing during the week. Lift queues can get big here, try to avoid going during the school holidays. www.bulgariaski.com
Go last minute
For those who aren’t fussy on which mountain they end up on then booking at the last minute can often throw up some bargains. Don’t always expect to get cheaper prices than those quoted for the holidays mentioned but simple things like a free lift pass or evening meals with wine can help you save heaps of money. As long as you are flexible on where you go there are always bargains about, especially at the start and the end of the season. Avoid the peak weeks of Christmas and February and you’ll come up with something. Ski websites such as DirectSki, Inghams, Panaroma and Budget tend to have last minute offers for unsold beds throughout much of the season. Because the snow conditions on the mountain you are traveling to can make or break your holiday, booking last minute offers an excellent advantage- you can check snow reports and forecasts of the area you wish to travel to before paying any money. Don’t leave it too late though as plenty of people use this tactic and bargain holidays can get snapped up fast!
Finally for anyone contemplating a snow holiday this winter remember that injuries are common and hospital costs prohibitive.The first port of call should be travel insurance. Be certain it covers snowsports as a lot of policies exclude it. Also apply for a European Health Insurance Card at www.ehic.ie -it’s free for all EU citizens and covers basic treatments in EU hospitals.